On September 1, 2011, I launched the “Muslims for Life” campaign at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. I did this on behalf of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the first and oldest Muslim organization in the U.S.. The same day, some two dozen members of the local DC area chapters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community were at metro stations distributing flyers emphasizing Islam’s teaching concerning the sanctity of life.
This campaign is about the very essence of Islam and the mission of the Holy Founder of Islam, Muhammad – peace and blessings of God be upon him. In a verse of the Holy Quran the believers are told to hearken, to respond, to the Prophet when he calls them so that he may give them life – the Holy Quran, Chapter 8, verse 25.
Now contrast this to the views of those extremists who claim to be doing the exact opposite in the name of Islam, it’s Holy Book and Holy Messenger. I have always reflected on the great tragedy that the vast majority of Americans got their first and only introduction to Islam, Muhammad and the Holy Quran on September 11, 2001.
So when in 2010, Faisal Shahzad tried to detonate a bomb in NYC’s Time Square, we thought enough was enough and something must be done in defense of True Islam. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been emphasizing the true teachings of Islam ever since it’s inception 122 years ago. We felt we had to do more and in more effective ways if we were ever to succeed in painting a true picture of Islam and let the Americans know what Islam is really about.
Our mission, since May 2010, has been to remove the flag of Islam from the hands of terrorists who have so tragically maligned the name of our religion, and ensure every Muslim, particularly the youth, living in America knows what Islam truly teaches about war and peace, making them impervious to the false, hatemongering propaganda meted out by extremists exploiting Islam for their own nefarious schemes.
Over the last 18 months we implemented two very successful nationwide campaigns to further these objectives: Muslims for Peace and Muslims for Loyalty. During the Muslims for Peace campaign we talked about some basic teachings of Islam and its purpose to establish and promote peace as well as teach humanity how to live in harmony.
Next, the Muslims for Loyalty campaign went a step further and stressed the practical guidance Islam provides. We told everyone, including our own Muslim youth that under all circumstances, as Muslims, we have to live in a law abiding, peaceful loyal manner wherever we reside if we are true Muslims. We wrote to newspapers, held press interviews and delivered speeches nationwide, saying that this is not a politically motivated statement for purposes of expediency but rather an essential teaching of Islam.
We have had great success with both these campaigns and the message has reached millions of people. We were able to communicate effectively to not only the population at large but also impressionable Muslim youth that Islam stands for peace and teaches that a Muslim, no matter where he/she hails from, has the religious responsibility, the religious duty to be a loyal, grateful, law-abiding resident of the place he/she calls home.
In spite of these efforts, we felt we ought to practically do something in goodwill and service to our community. On 9/11/2001 some 3,000 innocent lives were taken by terrorists acting in the name of Islam. Ten years later, this September, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community will remember this tragedy by organizing nationwide blood donations and with the expectation of collecting 10,000 units of blood, thus helping to save as many as 30,000 lives. We decided that the best way for us to get the life-giving true message of Islam across to our fellow Americans and simultaneously honor the victims of 9/11 would be by doing something both symbolic and significant. This is how the “Muslims for Life” campaign was born.
Islam promotes the sanctity of life and this is not a new message but part of the foundation of Islamic teachings. How beautifully the Holy Quran re-emphasizes the biblical teaching regarding the sanctity of life: We prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever killed a person unjustly it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind – the Holy Quran, Chapter 5, verse 33.
In his Farewell Pilgrimage address, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Even as this month, land and day of Pilgrimage are holy, so has God made the blood, property and honor of every human being sacred.”
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community taught: “Be kind and merciful to all humanity, for all are His creatures; do not oppress them with your tongue, hands, or in any other ways. Always work for the good of humanity.”
The central part of the Muslims for Life campaign is community involvement and working together across faith and ethnic backgrounds. Every American can join in the effort, and we have asked everyone to join us and we have been humbled by the overwhelming show of support we have received everywhere. At this year’s Presidential White House Iftar, which I had the honor to attend; President Barack Obama congratulated our efforts, and has consistently made the distinction between terrorist ideology and the peaceful message of the Islamic faith – may God bless him.
Countless fellow citizens took our hand and promised to help us. And now what we thought would be a small effort has blossomed into a nationwide, 230 strong, blood drive initiative throughout the month of September. And we are confident that we will be able to collect at least 10,000 units of blood if not more. Already we are hearing a growing chorus of voices demanding that “Muslims for Life” be made a permanent annual event.
Visit our official page, www.MuslimsForLife.org and look at the 230 blood donation sites. You will see that there are churches, synagogues, gurdawaras and mosques as well as law enforcement agencies, congressmen and senators – people from all walks of life and the whole spectrum of religions joining hands in a show of solidarity and unity for this initiative. The message is clear. This is a united nation standing together against terror and for the sanctity of life.
May God bless us all.
Naseem Mahdi is national vice president and missionary-in-charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. He is directing the nationwide “Muslims for Life” campaign that will host blood drives in September at all mosques and prayer centers of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and at other locations in collaboration with many community organizations. The goal is to collect at least 10,000 units of blood and convey the message that Islam values the sanctity of life. Visit MuslimsforLife.org to find a blood drive near you or to start your own.